'Red lake’ pigments

Red lake pigments were an important part of Rembrandt's palette. He used them in complex mixtures to create purple tints or to enliven dark colours.

The most common red lake in Rembrandt's paintings is cochineal, which was extracted from scale insects and imported from America.

Another red lake used by Rembrandt was Brazilwood, brought to the Netherlands from Brazil. At the Rasphuis in Amsterdam prisoners had to grate the wood to a powder. This was then boiled in water to extract the dye.

1 Red lake is visualised in the MA-XRF scans of the element potassium (K). The pigment is present for example in the dark red shadows of Willem van Ruytenburch's boot.